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Nat Med. 2016 Aug;22(8):851-60. doi: 10.1038/nm.4123. Epub 2016 Jul 4.

Targeting focal adhesion kinase renders pancreatic cancers responsive to checkpoint immunotherapy.

Author information

1
Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
2
Integrating Communications within the Cancer Environment (ICCE) Institute, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
3
Department of Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
4
Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
5
Verastem Inc., Needham, Massachusetts, USA.
6
Department of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

Abstract

Single-agent immunotherapy has achieved limited clinical benefit to date in patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). This may be a result of the presence of a uniquely immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment (TME). Critical obstacles to immunotherapy in PDAC tumors include a high number of tumor-associated immunosuppressive cells and a uniquely desmoplastic stroma that functions as a barrier to T cell infiltration. We identified hyperactivated focal adhesion kinase (FAK) activity in neoplastic PDAC cells as an important regulator of the fibrotic and immunosuppressive TME. We found that FAK activity was elevated in human PDAC tissues and correlated with high levels of fibrosis and poor CD8(+) cytotoxic T cell infiltration. Single-agent FAK inhibition using the selective FAK inhibitor VS-4718 substantially limited tumor progression, resulting in a doubling of survival in the p48-Cre;LSL-Kras(G12D);Trp53(flox/+) (KPC) mouse model of human PDAC. This delay in tumor progression was associated with markedly reduced tumor fibrosis and decreased numbers of tumor-infiltrating immunosuppressive cells. We also found that FAK inhibition rendered the previously unresponsive KPC mouse model responsive to T cell immunotherapy and PD-1 antagonists. These data suggest that FAK inhibition increases immune surveillance by overcoming the fibrotic and immunosuppressive PDAC TME and renders tumors responsive to immunotherapy.

PMID:
27376576
PMCID:
PMC4935930
DOI:
10.1038/nm.4123
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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